In an explosive new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Keith Olbermann breaks his silence on his bitter split with MSNBC in January, and reveals surprising details about his new show of the same name, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which premieres June 20 on Current TV. Below, some of the highlights:
Last Days: Olbermann admits his relationship with MSNBC execs began to go downhill after his longtime friend and ally, Tim Russert, died in 2008. “Tim knew how to play them,” he says. “He managed to do that with every faction, with every complaint from the Republican side, with every complaint from the Democratic side, with every complaint from a staffer. He knew how to turn it into a conversation that ended in laughter. Tim, for the noblest of causes, could bullshit very well. And I admired him for it. It seems to sap my creative voice.”
No Maddow: Olbermann hasn’t had any contact with his former apprentice Rachel Maddow since departing MSNBC. Why? “There were lots of people who were forced to choose sides. And particularly in Rachel’s case, I didn’t want to add to the pressure on her already,” he says. “The last thing I need to do is be calling her up and saying, ‘How’s that Michael Steele working out for you?’ Which is exactly what I would do if I were in the office.”
Left In The Dark: Both Olberman and his staff went into his final January 21 broadcast unsure of whether it would be his last. At the 8:30 pm show break, Olbermann’s representatives and MSNBC reached a deal to part ways. He made the announcement to his staff, and the team went out to dinner at swank New York eatery Gramercy Tavern.
Countdown To “Countdown”: When Olbermann’s away, look for another familiar MSNBC face to fill his “Countdown” seat. Olbermann has hired David Shuster – who was suspended last year when a pilot he’d taped for CNN surfaced – as his main substitute anchor.
Big Money: According to a source, Olbermann is making $10 million a year for his new “Countdown.” That’s more than 40 percent more than his $7 million salary at MSNBC (a figure which the magazine notes he’ll continue to earn for the next year and a half). Additionally, Olbermann will serve as the network’s chief news officer, giving him an equity stake in the company which could result in as much as $100 million in pocket change over the course of his five-year deal.